still sick...

dylan has not been sleeping well AT ALL, and today she was congested, which made her even less able to sleep. then tonight she started vomiting again! it wasn't as scary, because she wasn't throwing up stomach acid, but still no fun. basically, i think she was gagging on everything that was draining from her head all day, so i don't even know if it was related to the other incidents.

it's so frustrating. it's been two and a half weeks of poor sleep, intermittent vomiting, and now a cold. the more tired dylan is, the lighter she sleeps, and the more she resists. it feels like we're fighting a losing battle. i finally got her in bed a little bit ago, and it's eleven, although she did slept in my arms some. i pray she sleeps well tonight. her little body needs rest desperately!


Lawmakers Agree to Ban Dangerous Chemicals in Toys, Bottles

this is good news! read the full text here. a few excerpts:

Lawmakers charged with finalizing the Consumer Product Safety Commission Reform Act agreed yesterday to include a provision that will ban phthalates from children's toys and childcare articles. The legislative action validates the concerns of scientists and parents who have been urging a ban, and will bring federal regulation in line with several states and leading retailers that have already taken action to remove phthalates from toys.

Phthalates are chemical substances used to make plastic toys like rubber ducks and bath books soft and flexible. When children put these toys in their mouths, the phthalates can easily leach from toy to child. Phthalates have been linked to serious health concerns including birth defects, early puberty in girls (a risk factor for breast cancer) and liver cancer.

"This legislation is a victory for children's health and safety," said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund, "and a major blow to the chemical industry, which spent millions of dollars trying to defeat it. Congress took a first, important step toward reforming the way chemicals are regulated in this country. It's a great start and an indication that our lawmakers are ready to consider the kind of sweeping reform that's needed."

*edited to add: this legislation sounded better in theory than it may prove to be in practice, especially for handmade businesses, artisans, and small businesses who are not the makers of dangerous lead toys.

spun silver

jim took this great shot right from our deck.

flat rock fun

adorable--except for the scowl!

this sweet backpack was a father's day gift

grammy and poppy

aunt christie and ristow brave the natural water slides

uncle jimmy is cool


a plot twist

after several weeks away, we were able to worship at st. michael's this morning, and i was glad to not be responsible for planning worship at camp. a double blessing.

we dropped dylan off in the nursery for what was only perhaps the third time. when jim picked her up, the woman who was providing child care informed jim that she'd had a snack of cereal puffs. bah! the doctor had told us not to give her any cereals or grains and to stay away from any multi-ingredient foods (until we figure out what was causing the hoarking.) we never thought to mention it at the nursery because the warning is still brand-new, but mostly we never imagined they'd give her food. she's primarily breastfed and eats pureed baby foods at home, but no snacks yet.

the ingredients included rice, oats, and wheat, and we both felt horrible, imagining an afternoon of more vomiting, on a day that is super stressful at work. we prayed and prayed, got her down for a nap, skipped lunch, and we were able to nap, too. (a good thing, since dylan had been up since 5 and was up last night as well.) she woke up happy, we woke up rested, and no vomiting, praise God!

so perhaps it's not an allergy? the vomiting seemed to indicate an intolerance, but it's still a big question mark. we'll visit her doctor tomorrow, and hopefully she'll have some wisdom. thank you to everyone who prayed for us and for dylan's health; she is back to her happy self, and enjoyed a happy weekend with her grammy, poppy, aunt christie, and cousin ristow. we just need to get her back on track with sleeping again!


mister yuck is mean

now that our emergency has subsided, i can look at the humor of yesterday. jim was out on the trail with trip camp, and his parents, sister, and our nephew were en route from nashville when dylan began vomiting. she threw up first in her bed, so i took her to the changing table to wash and change her. then dylan vomited all over it, and again i cleaned her up. i put her on the mat on the floor so i could change her sheets and crib bumper, and she got sick all over the foam mat. when i picked her up, she got sick again, soaking my tee shirt and jeans, messing the carpet, and hitting the shelves of the changing table. i peeled off all my dirty clothes, pulled on a steelers tee, and took my sad baby downstairs to call the pediatrician and look up online the ingredients of the product she'd eaten at lunch.

minutes into my call, jim's whole family arrived. nothing says "welcome" quite like a semi-clad daughter-in-law who is simultaneously occuppied with the phone, the computer, and her vomiting and increasingly lethargic baby.

aren't i the hostess?

as i headed out the to hospital, jim's sister, christie, was starting on the laundry because her 3 year-old had also gotten sick in the last minutes of their eleven hour car trip. all in all, it was a pretty yucky day for the whole team paul writ large, but i do feel as though i passed some sort of mommy initiation rite.


sad baby

dylan had another vomiting incident this afternoon that wouldn't stop, and i had to make her first trip to the hospital, with jim's mom for support. we dressed her in the tiniest yellow flannel hospital gown and were there for hours of waiting and tests. the doctor was wonderful--personable, affirming, and pro-breastfeeding, and he took his time with us. he agreed that dylan probably has a food intolerance. this time the seeming culprit was pear blueberry oatmeal. the nurse was sure dylan had reflux and was kind of upset that the doctor didn't prescribe zantac, but i was thankful. if dylan is going to go on any sort of medication i want to feel confident that other possibilities have been carefully considered and ruled out.

the doctor took an x-ray to rule out a blockage and told us to stick to one-ingredient foods. we'll follow up with the pediatrician and probably an allergist. hopefully we'll know something more soon, and in the meantime, our little girl can rest up and rehydrate. please, Lord!

splish, splash

there is a park nearby that has natural water slides; it's basically a creek with a smooth rock bottom that you can slip and slide down. i took the wilderness staff there last night, and we had so much fun together. though it's been hot and sticky all week, last night was definitely a bit chilly to be frolicking in the water, but the crisp, overcast evening must have discouraged other visitors, and we had the slides to ourselves.

the funniest part was watching one another struggle to climb back over the mini-rapids and slick rocks. it was impossible to look cool or adult, and it was just good to be silly and playful together.

before swimming, we had bible study out on a picnic table next to the creek. the roar of the water was pretty loud, and i was worried that it would tank because it would be too hard to focus, but the girls were responsive and we had a really good discussion. the setting was beautiful, and it was a great evening to get away from camp and still be out in woods.


mama's big girl

dylan has changed so much in just the past week. she can cover a ton of ground crawling, although it's really more of a commando-style scoot. adorable! she plays happily on the floor with her toys, and i try my best to keep her out of the magazine baskets under the coffee table that entice her most of all. dylan sits up pretty decently and has begun babbling all sorts of baby talk in addition to the funny sound effects she already enjoys making. dylan most definitely says "mama," usually when she is sleepy, hungry, or otherwise sad. it is such a plaintive plea, and it would break my heart if it weren't also the most beautiful thing i've ever heard in my life! my eight-month-old baby girl calls for me by name. simply amazing.


stuff i've learned from my hippie sister

my younger sister has been a vegetarian since she was a kid, and since moving to new york city, she's gotten more hardcore. she doesn't self-identify as vegan, but she's pretty dang close. her commitment to keeping things natural and cruelty-free goes beyond food and affects the choices she makes when purchasing everything, including personal care and cleaning products.

admittedly, i have given her a hard time over the years. i didn't get it at all and honestly thought it was a little pretentious to spend extra money on what i saw as "designer" goods. if stuff wasn't safe, we'd know, right? there are people that check into that, right?

more and more, i've learned the answer to that question is "not really." the FDA checks into the safety of food items (um, sort of, but that's a whole other issue...), but they do not require safety tests for the thousands of chemicals in our toothpastes, soaps, makeups, deoderants, etc, nor do they test how these chemicals interact with one another as we layer them onto our bodies daily. since there is so little accountability or regulation, shunning chemical products in favor of natural alternatives suddenly seemed responsible instead of alarmist or elitist, especially considering the impact of my consumer purchases have on my baby's and family's health and on the earth.

we are taking baby steps toward reducing toxicity in our home. there are still stockpiles of chemically-laden products in my bathroom, but i'm not buying any more chemical household cleaning products, and i'm trying out more natural beauty items. so far, we've had great luck with green alternatives. seventh generation makes a great all-purpose cleaner and dish soap, and we use charlie's soap, baking soda, and bio kleen's bac on dylan's diapers. bac-out miraculously made my yellowed christening dress bright and new-looking for dylan to wear 28 years after i did. who says greener, healthier products can't work as hard as their chemical cousins?

so thanks, b, for changing my mind and some of my habits. i respect and admire your passion and commitment to tread more lightly on the earth, and i'm sorry for calling you a "freak";)


the young and the rice-less

dylan threw up monday, wednesday, and then again tonight. each incident occurred days apart, happened without a temperature, and she seemed otherwise pretty happy. we mentioned to the pediatrician on thursday morning that both time before she'd eaten rice cereal, but she dismissed that as an unlikely cause. dylan had, after all, been eating the cereal for several months without a problem.

dylan's doctor suggested laying off solids for a bit while she got rehydrated, and she hasn't had anything but breast milk since wednesday, but today at dinner, we tried again with the cereal and applesauce, thinking that it would be pretty bland and easy on her stomach. again, she made faces and didn't want to eat it, which is unlike her, because dylan likes to eat most anything. she only really had a few bites, and sure enough, an hour and a half later she was vomiting again.

i did an online search and came across a number of blogs and articles about babies not tolerating rice cereal, even if they'd taken to it before. even though it's billed as an easy first food and and unlikely allergen, there are a number of reports of babies getting sick after eating it.

i think the cereal is the likeliest culprit of her sickness. each time she threw up within two hours of eating the cereal, (mixed once with banana and twice with applesauce). what kind of bug would make an otherwise healthy, happy baby vomit monday morning, wednesday night, and saturday night, while seeming completely normal in between?

thankfully, dylan went right to sleep soon after getting sick. she woke up to nurse around ten and is back to sleep. hopefully all is well tomorrow on what will surely be a cereal-free day!


All About Cloth Diapering: Eco-friendly, Economical (& So Dang Cute)

cloth diapering is not nearly as messy or complicated as it sounds, even with two in diapers.  we love that we're radically reduce our household waste, protecting our kids' skin from harmful chemicals, and saving money, too.  let's be honest:  having a baby means dealing with poop. since throwing away diapers won't get you out of that, why not consider cloth diapering, even part of the time?

gentle, green, and safe
you do change a cloth-diapered baby more often than one in disposables--around every two hours or sooner, during the day--but that's a good thing.  infrequent changes can lead to rashes and skin irritation, and we don't know the long-term impact that exposure to synthetic chemicals in chlorine-bleached disposable diapers has on children's bodies--especially sensitive reproductive organs.  more frequent changes don't bother me when i stack the gentleness of cloth against disposables. 

saving money on cloth
all told, we spent over $400 on diapers, covers, and cloth wipes, which sounds like a ton of money and certainly is a lot to spend up front, but try this math on for size:

8 diapers/day x $.20/diaper x 365 days/year x 2.5 years =
$1460 to diaper one kid in disposables
[doesn't include the added expense of wipes or pull-ups]

if you use prefolds exclusively or buy used diapers, you could pay half of what we did.  now that we're diapering our son with the same diapers, our $400 investment is just $200 per kid.  The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet is a helpful resource for diapering on budget and offers a natural parenting perspective on ethical consumerism.

creating an online gift registry or registering with a local boutique or home business that carries cloth (web-search "diaper party") are great ways to let friends and family help you get set-up, since big box stores fall short of the kind of items you'll need for your cloth-bottomed babe. 

prefolds, fitted diapers, and covers
we use a combination of cloth diapers, including prefolds, fitted diapers, and a few all-in-ones and pockets. [green mountain is a fantastic mom-owned business and a wealth of information on the many options available in cloth diapering.] prefolds are flat diapers that are pre-folded and sewn thicker in the middle for added absorbency, and they are the least expensive diapering option.

old-school diaper pins are no longer required:  something called a snappi secures prefolds similarly to how you'd fit an ace bandage. (some people fold their diapers in thirds, cover, and go, but i find that "snappi-ing" ensures a better fit and allows me to use more generous fitting covers over both prefolds and fitted diapers.)  when you get the hang of it, prefolds are very reliable.  their cotton fibers are great on baby's skin, and they will never retain odors.  

fitted diapers resemble disposables and have less of a learning curve.  (we use one-size-fits-all mother-ease brand.) they're great for overnight, away from home, babysitters, and diapering multiple kids, but you pay significantly more for the convenience.

you'll still need a cover to leak-proof both these kinds of diapers.  we use mother-ease covers: they're adjustable, don't leave marks, and their generous size range is wider than many other covers. we air them out between uses and probably use them 4-5 times before washing, unless one happens to get soiled.  we also inherited a few decades-old wool covers which are still in great shape. wool covers are expensive, but their natural fibers are breathable and won't ever wear out. 

all-in-ones and pocket diapers 
all-in-one (AIOs) and pocket diapers are water-proof without needing a separate cover and are nice for diapering overnight, on-the-go, and babysitters.  AIOs take longer to dry because of their absorbent layers, but pocket diapers are similarly easy to use and dry well since the absorbent middle gets removed for the wash and stuffed back in for later use.  both are a nice diapering system if you can afford it, but i prefer the diaper/cover combo for affordability and ease of rinsing.  the two pockets we purchased last and are wearing faster than every other kind, so definitely do you research before making any big investment.

washing instructions 
we rinse soiled diapers in the toilet using a diaper sprayer and put all diapers in lidded pail lined with a water proof liner.  wash diapers every 2-3 days, soaking them overnight on cold with
charlie's soap and oxygen cleaner.  close the lid and run that load in the morning, and follow it with a second hot load with another scoop of charlie's and oxygen cleaner.  at times, we've used biokleen bac-out, baking soda, or vinegar to keep odor at bay or even a little tea tree oil in the final rinse for disinfecting, but diapers get clean and stay bright with charlie's and oxygen powder.

you don't have to use charlies soap, but it's good for diapers (and sensitive skin) because it rinses so clean.  never use anything with enzymes or brighteners.  inexpensive powdered detergents are usually a better choice than liquids, which contain more ingredients that can irritate your baby's skin and may not rinse out of your diapers.  detergent residue can cause diapers to leak or retain odor and can cause rashes.

sunning diapers on the clothesline fade stains like magic and protects your diapers from the damaging heat of the dryer.  do no use bleach--it's not good for skin, diapers, or the earth. you can safely keep diapers clean  without it. 

items that make cloth diapering a breeze

1. a spray bottle (or hospital peri-bottle) for water and a bar of olive oil soap to use with cloth wipes.  truthfully, we still use disposable wipes for most "yucky" changes, but cloth wipes are also great for making sure baby is dry and wiping hands, noses, and faces.
2. kissaluvs diaper lotion potion is a concentrate of natural essential oils that you mix with witch hazel in a spray bottle. i spray, wipe, and dry them at changes to keep bottoms clean.  (it's a definite non-necessity, but i love it, and one bottle has lasted years.)

3. a diaper sprayer (like a bidet) attaches to our toilet and makes rinsing dirties so simple.  i love my sprayer and have a hard time imagining rinsing soiled diapers without one (even those most do just that.)

4. a washable water-proof diaper pail liner keeps the pail clean and helps transport diapers to the washer.

5.  a small, zippered water-proof wet bag makes it easy to stow a dirty diaper while away from home.  (they're so good, too, for wet swim suits.)

6.  charlie's soap washes diapers clean and doesn't leave residue for odors to cling to, like most detergents will over time.  it's safe for sensitive baby skin and the environment.  although we've begun making our own laundry soap, i prefer charlie's for diapers.
the idea of cloth diapering can be overwhelming, but the learning curve is not so steep--and it doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing thing.  some people use cloth at home and disposables at day care or cloth during the day and disposables at night or on the go.  there are no rules, and it's definitely possible to ease into it gradually as you build up a "stash" of diapers you like and become more comfortable and confident with the system that works best for your family.

give cloth a try. you might just love it.  i dare ya;)

high / low

back when i was a youth pastor, i had a really quiet group of kids of disparate ages, and we'd usually open sunday school with a game of high/low to get them talking. as this week has been a little rollercoaster-y for the team paul, here are some of the high and lowlights:

low: dylan was vomitting again last night, which made us feel heartbroken and helpless
high: her doctor thinks she is ok, and she seems happy today (and vomit-free!)

low: she still hasn't caught up on her missed sleep
high: she got to bed on time tonight and is still asleep!

low: window installers woke dylan up from her nap this afternoon
high: we have seven new windows that actually open, fold out for washing, and have screens--all vast improvements from the dirty, drafty, old farmhouse windows that opened reluctantly, if at all and invited winter's iciest blasts into our home. it is nice to experience wanted cross breezes, and since we live in camp housing, not having to foot the bill is another definite benefit:)

if there was an "upside" at all to dylan feeling out of sorts this week, it is that jim and i were able to get away from camp and spend time with her and one another at home for some much-needed rest. our week has definitely been improving.

tonight the camp director had a group of counselors over for a dinner. their home overlooks a beautiful corner of property, the food was delicious, and it was amazing to not have to be in the dining hall, which is insanely hot and loud. oh, to eat actual food from recognizable food groups! it was also so great to just enjoy and not have to plan any of it.

i had two really good bible study times with counselors this week. we've been studying prayer and meditation, and this week we hiked away from camp to spend some good silent time alone. i know at least for me it was good to get away and be still before God:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2)


up in a swing, up in the air so blue

dylan is, for the moment, quiet, and dare i say, asleep?! before she was sick, tired, and cranky, she was actually having a lovely week. our water baby loved swimming in the pool, and she also got to try out her baby swing, which jim hung on our porch. dylan is a big fan, as the pictures attest:

dylan and her four "chompers," as jim refers to them;)


i remember sitting on my grandma's lap as a kid and reading a book of children's poems with little mouse illustrations, and one of my favorites was this:

The Swing
by Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside--

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown--
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

even though today was basically the worst day off ever, one bright spot was that dylan is officially crawling, and she is about as cute as can be scooting around. she's so determined! and i have determined that my floors need to be a whole lot cleaner than they are right now.

praise God, dylan is actually asleep, which is also where i'd like to be.

the opposite of rest

camp has been extra chaotic and busy and dylan was throwing up yesterday and not sleeping, so we were so thankful that today was our day off. (we work six looong days a week.) sadly, dylan is so overtired that all day has been a constant battle to try to get her sleep, and the more sleep she misses, the angrier she gets and the more she fights sleep. she is upstairs yelling and i have no idea what to do. all day long we've bounced and nursed and rocked and tried stories and the sling and a bath. of course, it's now over an hour past bedtime, so not only is she not catching up on any missed sleep, she is creating a bigger deficit. awesome. please pray for her health and rest and for our patience!


the great unwashed

after a very long week, jim and i had a lovely afternoon and evening off, and best of all, my sister bethany was able to stop in for a quick visit. two sister visits in one week! she and four friends were on a crazy road trip back to brooklyn from the cornerstone music festival in illinois . they'd been camping and lake swimming and sweating it out with the crowds, and we got to see and feed them for an all-too-brief rest stop.

this summer, a big highlight of our time off has been preparing healthful food, and b's crew could appreciate that as well, having been subjected to festival and gas station munchies for a good long while. jim grilled venison and beef steaks with a delicious spice rub, i made a quinoa grain salad, and we blended margaritas with fresh strawberries. so good and unlike camp fare, which is almost entirely processed, breaded, or fried. camp food always reminds me of the line in say anything: "there's no food in your food!"

bethany and her friends weren't able to stay the night or even long enough for a shower, but dylan got to be loved and kissed by her aunt, and it was such a nice night. the best!


i've got a yankee doodle sweetheart

the fourth of july is observed with great fanfare and gusto at camp. the day involves costumes, lots of decorations, a carnival, parade, picnic, concert, and and light show. it's probably the strangest parade you'll never see, complete with fire trucks, a marching band and color guard, a float, and miss ligonier 2004 and 2007. we also throw in things you're likely not to see elsewhere--darth vader, elmo, a gorilla, and a cornucopia of golf carts, atvs, tractors, and riding mowers decorated in their finest red, white and blue. the whole day is weeeeird, but silly and fun.

continual prayer

i've been studying spiritual disciplines with my staff this summer, and this past week we investigated what it means to "pray without ceasing." we read a passage from henri nouwen's book, clowning in rome, and i wanted to share part of it here:

Although it is important and even indispensable for our spiritual lives to set apart time for God and God alone, our prayer can only become unceasing communion when all our thoughts--beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful--can be thought in the presence of the One who dwells in us and surrounds us. By trying to do this, our unceasing thinking is converted into unceasing prayer, moving us from a self-centered monologue to a God-centered dialogue. To do this we want to try to convert our thoughts into conversation. The main question, therefore, is no so much what we think, but to whom we present our thoughts, because to pray unceasingly means to think and live in the presence of Love.

The idea of offering our thoughts to God and reorienting them as prayer really struck me. How offen do i fail to offer thanks for the joys in my day or not think to pray over the things that are worrying or frustrating me in the moment? the idea that Who we present our thoughts to is more important than what we think resonates with me still. it says in 2 corinthians 10:5 to "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ," but i think that i believed unconsciously that i needed to clean up my judgmental, resentful, or otherwise sinful thoughts before i offered them to Christ. that is really just sin-management and trying to fix myself instead of accepting the grace of Jesus. after all, it is only the cross of Christ that has the power to defeat sin--my own lackluster efforts will always fall short. when i overemphasize the role of my strength or will to "fix" sin, i diminish my need for Christ, it's a short jump to practicing the kind of works-based salvation i know to be heresy.

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 thessalonians 5:16-18).


oh speak again, bright angel

after a long hiatus, we have internet at home again, and i can post some pictures. jim and i were off yesterday, and tiffany came for the afternoon. it was so good to see aunt tiffany. we ate lunch at pedro's, got gelato, did a little window shopping in ligonier, and all-too-soon it was time for tiff to leave. it's hard having everyone live so far away!

yesterday was another really big baby first. dylan spoke! i left dylan with jim to go downstairs, and he called down, "she's calling for you!" i missed her first words, but they were "mmmmmom! mom!" i did get to hear it later that day as i was putting a sad, tired baby in her crib.

okay, so she calls for me when she's sad, but if you check out the pics above, in all but the first, her attentive devotion is directed off-camera to daddy in the wings.
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